Traffic congestion is a problem of almost every city. Too many cars on the streets affect mobility, environment and the people in it. Congestion also hurts the economy as time and productivity are wasted being stuck on the streets. Last 2018 it is estimated that the US lost nearly $87 billion dollars due to traffic congestion but these 15 cities have it the worst.
The data above is based on Tomtom’s 2018 Traffic Index which measured the congestion levels in 403 cities across 56 countries and six continents. The congestion level percentages shown represent the measured amount of extra travel time experienced by drivers across the entire year.
Tomtom computed it by starting with a baseline travel time during uncongested, free flow conditions across each road segment in each city. They then analysed the travel times across the entire year (24/7) and compared this against the free flow periods to derive the extra travel time. Travel times and days (e.g. weekdays, morning or evening peak hours) are also considered in the computation.
The percentages are calculated from anonymised GPS data collected via navigation devices, in-dash systems and smartphones.
How bad could the worst of the worst look like? Let’s look into the three countries which made it to the top of this list.
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India houses the second largest road network in the world. Roads are the main mode of transportation being used in the country. While this is the same for other countries, this is particularly true in India since it hasn’t been able to fully develop alternative means of transport such as a railway system. On top of this, the public transport system in the country needs a lot of work.
These factors combined resulted in the majority of the Indian population being heavily dependent on vehicles not just for travelling but also for the transport of goods. This causes the degradation of roads due to overloading. The funding that could be used for the development of the road networks ends up being allocated to maintenance costs.
In Bogota, the country’s capital, the car traffic doubled over the past decade. Needless to say, this translated to a worsened traffic conditions. Efforts to relieve traffic congestion such as the amplification of the mass transit bus system and the creation of an underground system are being put forward.
Another effort to reclaim roads in Bogota is Ciclovía. This is an event which occurs on Sundays and regular holidays. In Ciclovía the roads are closed for cars. This encourages citizens to use bicycles and roam around.
Lima in Peru is notorious for its traffic conditions, even earning itself some screen time in Discovery Channel’s “Don’t Drive Here” episode. The city is inundated with buses and taxis contributing heavily to daily traffic.
Informal transport dominates Lima. In 2014, only 40 percent of the 230,000 taxis are legal. While this makes transportation cheap and accessible, this also means more traffic jams to deal with.
This, in conjunction with the traffic culture and a complicated transport system, is a perfect storm. However, the government of Peru is already working on their metrorail system amongst other efforts to combat congestion.
A Bad Thing?
Apart from the hassle of waiting, traffic congestion also contributes to noise and air pollution. However, it isn’t all bad. The traffic also indicates that the country’s economy is becoming stronger.
What we have to make sure though is to direct this growth with sustainability in mind — making sure that the people and the environment will not suffer in exchange for development.